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Zenith Pilot Doublematic Watch Hands-On

Zenith Pilot Doublematic Watch Hands-On Hands-On

With 2012 behind us we are trying to find stuff from last year that we forgot to cover. Not because it wasn’t cool, but you know, because we get busy. I was sad to find that I neglected to cover the Pilot Doublematic watch from Zenith – I even had some hands-on time with it. Zenith is partially to blame because until recently their communication with us “online journalists” was sort of sparse. They recently wised up so we hope to cover them with more frequency because I for one am a fan of what they are doing. I recently sat down with their CEO Mr. Dufour in Geneva and we chatted a bit about what’s going to be soon released.

Anyhow, back to the Pilot Doublematic. What I loved about this watch when I first got my hands on it was how it was able to cram together so many functions but still look decent and still be legible. I’ve found more and more that I have become a design snob. It isn’t enough to just cram a bunch of features together, they need to be attractively crammed together. And this watch does a lot, giving you the time, big date, world time ring, alarm and chronograph. I know, sort of over the top but we love it.

Zenith Pilot Doublematic Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Now I know what you are thinking, “that is great and all, but I probably can’t afford it.” Well the good news is that prices around town for the Pilot Doublematic are just a bit more than a Rolex Submariner. More on the price later though. Zenith uses a nicely sized 45mm case in steel or there is an optional 18k pink gold model, and throws like a ton of crowns on it. Rather than making it look too silly, the various crowns and pushers look sorta cool – as though this is a watch with real purpose. The next question is then, ” do all of these complications fit together?” Good question. Let’s think about it, who needs a world time function and an alarm (among other things)? Well apparently pilots do, but who else? I would say travelers. The world time function is a given, and the big date is a convenience. The chronograph measures only 30 minutes so it isn’t good for tracking your flights, but you can use it to measure how long you’ve been in line at the airport. The alarm is good for waking you up, or reminding you to get to a meeting, get to your gate, or whatever. Sure your phone can do all of that, but if you felt strongly about that then you probably wouldn’t be reading a review of a mechanical watch on a timepiece blog.

When I first saw the Pilot Doublematic I was just sort of impressed that Zenith managed to put it all together. There wasn’t much precedent for the design and it was rather unexpected. To be honest, viewing “unexpected” watches from brands other than guys like Richard Mille is rare. There are only so many complications and ways to combine them. But the Pilot Doublematic was really something I didn’t see coming, and I can’t think of any other mechanical watches out there can combine these complications. But hell, I would hate to have to try and read or use this timepiece while intoxicated in any way.

Zenith Pilot Doublematic Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Zenith Pilot Doublematic Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The periphery of the dial is the city ring which is changeable via one of the left-side crowns. It works with the half black and half white 24 hour ring. This allows you to know the time (and whether it is day or night) in each of the 24 timezones. It is a great complication to have for anyone, but especially nice when you are traveling. Having a ring-style world timer almost makes you no longer want a standard GMT watch. While GMT watches can be pretty, their functionality is inferior to that of world timers because you can track 24 versus 2 timezones. And by track I mean actually do it in a legible manner.

The alarm uses the lower left-hand crown and three elements on the dial. The crown also combines a pusher. That pusher is to turn the alarm function on and off, which is indicated in a window near 9 o’clock. A red central hand is used to set the alarm, while Zenith placed a dedicated power reserve indicator (which goes from red to green as the power is wound up) exclusively for the alarm complication (as it has its own mainspring). You use the alarm crown to both wind that spring as well as set the alarm time.

Zenith Pilot Doublematic Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Zenith Pilot Doublematic Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Being El Primero-based means that the Pilot Doublematic more or less needed to have a chronograph function – even if it only has a 30 minute counter. Inside the watch is an in-house made Zenith caliber 4046 automatic El Primero movement that is made up of over 430 parts and still manages to have an over 50 hour power reserve. The rear of the watch has a sapphire exhibition case  back with a view of the lovely movement – which is proudly industrial in its style. Zenith also uses a skeletonized rotor to give you a bit more of the view. While there is the gold version available. I think that the steel Pilot Doublematic is your best bet. It is too tool-cool to be in a precious metal material. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense like that. Overall a very unique piece that got and kept my attention. Retail price for the Zenith Pilot Doublematic is $13,200 in steel and $31,500 in 18k pink gold.

Zenith Pilot Doublematic Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Technical specs from Zenith:


Pilot Doublematic steel version: 03.2400.4046/21.C721
Pilot Doublematic pink gold version: 18.2400.4046/01.C721


El Primero 4046, selfwinding
Total diameter 30 mm
Thickness 9.05 mm
439 parts
41 jewels
Cadence of the balance 36,000 vph
50-hour power reserve


Central hours and minutes
30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock
Sweep seconds hand
Large date at 2 o’clock
Central alarm hand
Alarm on/off indicator at 8.30
Alarm power-reserve display at 7 o’clock


Polished and satin-brushed steel or pink gold
Diameter 45 mm
Water resistance 5 ATM
Sapphire crystal caseback


Matt black with Superluminova-enhanced hands and numerals or silver-toned with Superluminova-enhanced 5N numerals and hand


Alligator leather with hand-sewn topstitching, 18-carat gold pin buckle or folding clasp



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  • Ulysses31

    As John would say, this watch is redonkulous.  Cool complications galore but they’ve been thrown slap-dash on to the dial with no respect for clarity or symmetry at all.  The Arabic numerals are clipped here, there, everywhere.  Nothing on the dial lines up with anything else; it’s annoying if you appreciate cohesive design and a nightmare if you have OCD.  I guess the designers of this watch were in a hurry to get home early.  Fortis does a better job of cramming this many complications into a watch for a better looking result with less dead space.  Zenith can do much better than this, i’ve seen it with my own eyes.

  • Jeffster

    High:  I love the idea of including an alarm with a world timer function and a 50-hour power reserve.  Keeping a mobile charged over 20+ hours of flying and transfers and layovers is neigh impossible at times, making this potentially practical in a way complicated watches often lack.

    Low: On the other hand, the styling is so-so, but in particular the bridge over the power reserve on this watch is quite unfortunate; I gather they were going for “airplane cockpit” or the like, but it mostly looks cheap.

  • MikeFig

    I agree with Ulysses that Zenith has left the dial a little sloppy–something we’ve come to expect from them on most watches that employ more than second or chrono sub-dials on the face (I’m thinking of their reserve de marche models). Still, I think this watch is a winner and would love to see how it actually wears on the wrist.

  • droo

    YES ! I agree with all of you… design is wrong, it is a combination that makes the design look cheapo, it suffers a lack of harmony. I always felt that designers at Zenith are sometimes wrong and sometimes great. The case is not a success, lack of balance between pushers and winding crown vs the two others (no coherence here). Index 9 is lost badly and the 24 night indexes are red thus killing the balance of the inner bezels. Big date kills badly index 2, index 7 just vanishes. On the other hand this chronograph is a summit in terms of functionnality. So many fonctions integrated in one timepiece !… waow !

  • Tekky

    Make one tiny enhancement and I would buy this watch.  I adore mechanical alarm watches… I have three currently.  But I live in the dark… theatre (live performances), meetings in bars, low-light presentations.  And I wear dress shirts most of the time.  Can’t use a cell phone for time – it’s rude and lights up the area.  So most of my daily wearing watches are tritiums.  I have one on now.  Several tritium alarm watches – a Luminox Yatching and a Traser Big Date Blue, the latter having the uber-cool two-hand alarm Ronda startech movement.  But… they’re quartz.  I feel a pull to mechanicals.
    So I would pay the $13K, or even a bit more, in a heartbeat for this Zenith… if only they would outfit it with Tritium.  Why oh why do companies not realize the utility of that gas in a watch with an alarm?

    • nateb123

      Tekky Because ugly little tubes look ghastly on literally every watch they inhabit?  Plus decent lume does the job just as well.  A Planet Ocean’s lume puts those foul Luminox tubes to shame.

      • Tekky

        nateb123 Tekky I like the look of tritium, but it does require larger and clunkier, perhaps more deliberate, styling.  More to the point, it seems you either missed the relevance of “dress shirts.”  That means cuffs.  Which means no light on the dial.  So the puppy just never gets a proper charge, and you can’t really charge it in 5 minutes under a halogen; it just doesn’t take the same.
        I’m not really a Planet Ocean fan; it lacks an alarm (which I really do use; see my starter comment) and as a pricey large diver, it’s more an image watch than purely functional.  Yes, a master piece, but no more serious than a Rolex or Invicta.  For the type who would have, 20 years ago, driven a T-top Camaro while wearing an open polyester shirt with a gold chain and mascara on their chest hair.   I suspect they’re the ones buying low-end Mercedes instead of functionally superior Audis. 😉

        • J Park

          Tekky Have you had a look at Ball Watches? They range from silly sporty to more classic looks and most of their watches feature tritium.

  • Zeitblom

    The movement is indeed beautiful, but the point is that you can actually *see* it without having X-ray vision, a power evidently possessed by all those people who praise the beauty of watch movements covered by huge metal plates [eg many Langes, that Omega that was recently reviewed here, the list goes on…..] That’s why I love the Zenith Chronomaster 1969 that came out last year — you can *see* that wonderful EP movement — from both sides. Please review that one!

  • Kris C

    Very nice. Just to chime in on your opening comment, I am a huge Zenith fan (would put them in my top 3) and really hope they get more exposure around here in the future.

  • SuperX7

    I’ve only discovered this in the last year… and it is by far, one of my favourite time pieces…

  • SuperX7

    Tekky Have you had a look at Ball Watches? They range from silly sporty to more classic looks and most of their watches feature tritium.

  • Baldrick’s Trousers

    I’m sorry, but I just find this dial a mess. I love complications, but not when it just makes things look too cluttered. Those sub-dials and indicators desperately need reshuffling to clean things up and find a way to avoid clipping nearly every single numeral.

    A better solution in my view would be to lose the chronograph, the alarm and even the date. Move the seconds to a central seconds and produce a more cleanly styled ring world timer. They’d save so much space that they could reduce the size of the watch to make it more wearable on smaller wrists.

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